Three Figures, the new show at Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Culver City, California, will focus on the figurative work of three artists—Sean Cheetham, Aaron Nagel, and Jeremy Mann—whose delicate works take long, thoughtful looks deep into the hearts of their subjects.
The show opens June 7 and runs through July 5. An artists’ reception will be held opening night, from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibition will include Cheetham’s Racer 5, named after one of the artist’s favorite beers, a bottle of which can be seen on the table in the painting.
“The two people in the painting are myself on the right and my good friend Johnpaul on the left. He lived in that building at the time and it seemed like a perfect setting for a painting. The building was basically in Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. Not my favorite place in the world,” Cheetham says. “I liked that spot in the building because there were plenty of interesting textures in that room as well as having the opening to the Los Angeles night sky. I composed the image with multiple photos taken from on top of a ladder. The angle seemed to be the best way to get everything in there, as well as just to do something with a little more fly-on-the-way feeling.”
Ratcliff, featuring one of Cheetham’s neighbors, is more of a classical portrait—a no-nonsense examination of a face and its characteristics. Cheetham picked his subject partially because of his facial hair. “He had this beard, which is something I’ve always enjoyed painting,” he adds. Also in the Maxwell Alexander show is Nagel’s The Suffering I, with its pale pink background and its female subject with soot on her neck and jaw.
“I’ve used painted body parts in paintings for years now, mostly on the hands of my subjects. It initially was a purely aesthetic decision…” Nagel says. “For me, it’s not a specific idea I’m trying to convey, but rather a mood—one that hopefully lends itself to the godlike qualities I’m after. We used chalk in this particular piece instead of my usual acrylic paint and I like that it looks a little dirty, a little less slick…but still it’s inert enough to allow the viewers to come up with their own story.”
He says the title refers to several different ideas: “First and foremost, I like my subjects to exude a certain power and, to me, that power is analogous to the power portrayed by icons in religious art. When in the presence of a wrathful god, or an obsessed populace, somebody has to suffer. Additionally, and on a more informal note, when I see something beautiful, my own reaction is oddly that of turmoil, of suffering— something even as simple as a beautiful woman and the first thing I feel is a baffling chagrin. It’s not torture so much, but it’s suffering none the less.”
Mann—who has several new pieces in the show, including Menagerie and a cool-blue cityscape called Rooftops in the Snow—says he greatly admires the artists in Three Figures. “Solo shows are great and all, but I like the idea of well-arranged group shows. I think [Maxwell Alexander Gallery’s Beau Alexander] fits his group shows in themes and likenesses that raise the bar, where other gallery group shows are just ways to include a lot of vegetables in the soup,” Mann says, adding that he’s long followed the work of Nagel and Cheetham. “To finally be showing with these guys is fantastic for me. Group shows like this always have a wonderfully close mix of work and mingling of like- minded artists.”